introducing Grant Starrett [Updated]

From 2011 through 2014, the House of Representatives was conservatism’s only reliable line of defense against President Obama’s leftist encroachments. It’s quite possible that after 2016, conservatives will again need to look to the House to play this vital defensive role.

To maintain control of the House, and to keep it in fighting trim, Republicans must run strong, principled conservatives — and not just for open and Democrat-held seats. We saw in 2006 what happens when entrenched Republican incumbents become embarrassments.

That’s why I agree with Erick Erickson, who recently tweeted, “If Grant Starrett gets in, he’s got my support. He’s a great guy.”

Who is Grant Starrett, and what might he be getting into?

Starrett is a rising conservative star. He’s a graduate of Stanford, where he founded the Stanford Conservative Society and grew it to over 500 members, and of Vanderbilt Law School, where he was president of its Federalist Society.

Grant was the Students for Mitt Chair in Romney’s 2008 Presidential campaign and the Coalitions Coordinator in the 2012 Romney campaign. He spent the summers between school working for the Senate Steering Committee under Senator Jim DeMint, the White House, FoxNews, and the American Center for Law and Justice.

Grant has taken a lead role in Tennessee’s judicial wars, fighting trial lawyers and activist judges to restore constitutional order to Tennessee’s judicial selection process. Currently, he serves as Vice President and Special Counsel at Lion Real Estate Group.

I got to know Grant through my friend Joe Malchow, the publisher of Power Line. A long conversation with Grant made it easy to see why Joe holds him in such high regard, both personally and politically.

As Erick Erikson’s tweet indicates, Grant is seriously considering running for the House of Representatives in Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District. It’s clear to me that Grant is the kind of energetic, talented Constitutional conservative we will need to preserve the House of Representatives as a bulwark against the left’s “transformative” agenda and, should circumstances permit, to make it the engine of conservatism transformation.

It’s equally clear that the Republican incumbent, Scott DesJarlais, should be replaced. DesJarlais, a physician, was embroiled in a personal scandal in 2012, when it was revealed that he had affairs with his patients. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners reprimanded him for this.

DesJarlais is an outspoken critic of abortion. Yet, according to his divorce trial transcript, he pressured one of the patients he had sex with to get an abortion and pressured his ex-wife to do the same.

Scandal aside, DesJarlais isn’t a strong conservative. His lifetime ratings from Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Citizens Against Government Waste, and National Taxpayers Union range from 76 percent to 79 percent.

DesJarlais voted against the most aggressive budget-cutting bills in the House, namely the Republican Study Committee budgets in 2011 and 2013. He voted against cutting funding for the DOE loan program that funded Solyndra. He has supported “crony capitalism” legislation on a number of occasions.

In 2014, DesJarlais survived a primary challenge by only 38 votes. Considering his scandals, this result is a quite a tribute to his resiliency. But he clearly remains vulnerable to challenge.

Like Erick, I hope that Grant challenges DesJarlais. If he does, I’ll be asking readers to support him.

UPDATE: One of my go-to sources on national security issues writes:

[Grant] is also solid on national defense and security issues; we have had many long conversations about it. . . .He would be a welcome addition to the Hill at a time when the world is increasingly dangerous but too many members still do not understand the importance of a strong defense to handle and deter rising threats.

The current fight for a better defense budget is only the latest example of how we need people who follow both fiscal conservative AND strong national security principles.